What is PM KUSUM?
The Union Government has started Rs.1.4 lakh-crore Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme for promoting solar farming i.e. decentralized solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.
The scheme is considered a “silver bullet” to overcome challenges of irrigation supply, subsidy burden on discoms and farmer distress.
It consists of three components:
Component-A: 10,000 MW of Decentralized Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants.
Component-B: Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
Component-C: Solarisation of 10 Lakh Grid-connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
All three components combined; the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022. Significantly adding to India INDC goals.
Objective aims to provide energy security along with financial and water security to farmers.
Who will implement the scheme?
State Nodal Agencies (SNAs) of MNRE will coordinate with States/UTs, Discoms and farmers for implementation of the scheme.
What are the benefits of scheme?
1. Environmental impact
All three components of the Scheme combined together are likely to result in saving of about 27 million tons of CO2 emission per annum.
Component-B of the Scheme on standalone solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.
(At present, over 30 million agricultural pumps are installed in India, out of which nearly 10 million pumps are diesel based)
2. Employment potential
The scheme has direct employment potential. Besides increasing self-employment, the proposal is likely to generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.
3. Financial security to farmers: by selling excess electricity to DISCOMS
4. Independence from erratic supply of electricity from grid
5. Monetization of rural wastelands, barren and uncultivable land Under Component A, Renewable power plants of capacity 500 KW to 2 MW will be setup by individual farmers/ cooperatives/panchayats /farmer producer organizations (FPO) on their barren or cultivable lands.
6. Source of additional income for FPOs cooperatives farmers panchayats
7. As these power plants will be located closer to the agriculture loads or to electrical substations in a decentralized manner, it will result in reduced Transmission losses for STUs and Discoms. Moreover, the scheme will also help the Discoms to achieve the RPO target
Challenges/ problems with PM-KUSUM
- In the context of 100 per cent electrification of villages under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) the government’s push for solar off-grid pumps seems unnecessary.
- Component C will require metering which seems to be a humungous task as the agricultural sector largely relies on un-metered connections. Net-metering is yet a big challenge even in urban areas.
- Hardly any on-grid pump beneficiary has received any payment from discoms for generating excess power and supplying it to the grid, according to a survey by New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment.
- It raises a serious question on the discoms’ ability to pay to millions of additional prosumers (on-grid pump beneficiaries who are both producers and consumers of solar power) for the next 25 to 28 years.
- The implementation guidelines mandate the use of indigenously manufactured solar panels with indigenous cells and modules for the installation of solar pumps (under Component B & C).this clause may delay the whole programme and adversely impact its implementation as present domestic manufacturing is very low.
- Component A could encourage large and economically well-off farmers to shift from agricultural activities to putting up renewable / solar plants.
- Further, it is unclear if the benefits of the subsidized solar pump will reach small and marginal farmers. At present, large farmers are disproportionate beneficiaries of solar pump schemes implemented by various states.
- Poor farmers are not even able to pay 10 per cent of the cost of the pumps and few of them have installed solar pumps.
- Finally, though the document mentions differential treatment for dark-zone areas, implementation will be a challenge. Free electricity through a large number of solar pumps will increase the chances of over-exploitation of water and risks the water table even in safe zones.
- Solar pump schemes should accompany explicit and strict measures of monitoring and control to manage groundwater extraction. Funds for solar pump schemes should be extended only to states willing to take such measures.
- Solarization of feeders may be the most economical solution, but needs to be accompanied by gradual increase in agricultural tariffs and limits on hours of power supply.
- On-grid pumps are an alternative for water-scarce regions with high farmer distress, but adequate and one-way power flow (as opposed to net meter) is necessary to limit water withdrawal.
- Off-grid pumps should be considered only in exceptional cases, for unelectrified regions with relatively high water-table, and utilisation should be increased through a mini-grid model in which excess electricity can be used in households or for other economic uses.
- Clear targets must be set to provide solar pumps to small and marginal farmers. Providing access to financing is a crucial support needed by this segment.
- Efficient discom operations should be ensured by regulatory mandates for regular reporting on installations, operations, evacuation, billing and payment to farmers.